Don’t let the idea of making soap from scratch intimidate you. Yes, it requires a lot of tools and supplies, but once you get your soap making supply closet fully stocked, the process is—dare I say—therapeutic! To help make the process easier, here’s a master list of all the soap making supplies you could ever need.
Essential Soap Making Supplies
Making cold process soap from scratch requires a few essential tools to ensure the process goes smoothly. Start gathering supplies long before you need them. That way, you’re not caught off guard and forced to use everyday cookware for making soap (a big no-no when working with caustic chemicals like lye).
Some of the more obvious supplies, like bowls, spatulas, and white vinegar, will be easy to find, while things like thermometers and a scale may have to be purchased specifically for soap making. If you don’t have something already, check out Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or even your local restaurant supply store for inexpensive options. Lastly, do not skimp on the protective gear because lye can cause serious burns if you’re not careful!
With these essential tools, you'll be well on your way to creating your own handmade soap.
1. Measuring Tools for Making Soap
Digital kitchen scale
A digital scale is used to weigh the ingredients needed for soap making, like oils, water, and lye. Measuring by weight rather than volume ensures that the proper ratios are used for the chemical reaction to occur properly and that the soap turns out the way it should in terms of texture, consistency, and lather-ability.
A food thermometer is used to monitor the temperature of the oils and lye mixture. The oils and lye need to be kept within a specific temperature range for the chemical reaction to occur, and a thermometer ensures that the temperature is accurate.
I recommend using a digital thermometer to help remove some of the guesswork and help you make decisions quickly. But you can also use a candy thermometer if you have one. If you plan to make soap often, you may want to invest in two thermometers, so you’ll have one for the lye water and another for the oils.
Measuring cups and spoons
While the main ingredients are measured by weight, measuring cups and spoons should be used to measure add-ins, such as essential oils, dried herbs, and colorants.
2. Soap Making Containers, Mixers, and Utensils
Mixing bowls are used for mixing and blending ingredients. They can be made of plastic or glass, but it's important that they are heat-resistant if you're using them to mix lye and oils. Large mixing bowls are ideal for mixing the oils and lye solution together.
Stainless steel saucepan
Stainless steel saucepans are recommended for heating oils and melting solid oils such as coconut oil or shea butter. It's important to use stainless steel in soap making because other metals, such as aluminum, copper, and iron, can react with the ingredients and cause the soap to become discolored, develop an off-taste or smell, or even be unsafe to use (this is especially true when combining the oils and lye!).
I have also used ceramic-coated pans in the past, which can work in a pinch. Just note that lye can cause the ceramic coating to flake off, ruining your pots. So only use them occasionally.
Mixing water and lye sets off a chemical reaction that gets very hot very quickly. I prefer to do this in large heat-proof canning jars because the tall sides prevent the lye from splashing, and they can withstand the heat without shattering.
Coffee grinder or mortar and pestle
If you plan to add herbs, flowers, or solid add-ins to your soap, a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle can make them more manageable.
Wooden or silicone spoons
Spoons are used to stir the ingredients together. Wooden or silicone spoons are best because they’re nonreactive and won't scratch your pots and pans.
Spatulas are used to scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Just like with spoons, silicone spatulas are ideal since they’re nonreactive and heat-resistant.
An immersion blender, also known as a stick blender, is used to blend the oils and lye solution together quickly and thoroughly, ensuring the mixture reaches a uniform consistency (known as “trace”). While some recipes recommend using a wire whisk or spoon, an immersion blender is required for most recipes.
A non-serrated knife has a sharp, smooth edge that can easily slice through the cured soap, creating a professional-looking finish. To make cutting soap with a non-serrated knife a little easier, simply run the blade under hot water for a few minutes to help it glide through the soap. Then, make a slow and steady cut.
3. Safety Gear for Making Soap
Rubber gloves help keep your hands from coming into direct contact with lye, which is incredibly caustic and can cause serious burns. It's important to wear gloves that are made to withstand the harsh chemicals used in soap making, such as nitrile or neoprene gloves.
As it dissolves in water, lye releases fumes that will burn your lungs, so it's important to wear a protective face mask that can filter out small particles.
Lye can also burn your eyes, so you'll want to make sure to wear safety goggles that can protect your eyes from any splashes, splatters, or fumes.
White vinegar is used as a neutralizing agent in case spills or splatters occur when working with lye. If you get any lye on your skin or clothes, you can use white vinegar to neutralize the effects of the lye.
While not completely necessary, an apron will help keep your clothes from getting stained or damaged.
4. Molds for Soap Making
Wooden soap molds
Wooden soap molds are a traditional choice for soap making—they make slicing bars of soap easy and can be reused many times. They are typically made of unfinished wood with a silicone liner and come in various sizes and shapes.
Silicone muffin pans are a great option for making smaller bars of soap. Pour the soap mixture into the individual muffin cups, allow it to set, and then remove the soap once hardened.
Silicone molds are a popular choice for soap making because they're flexible and non-stick. Plus, they come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes and can be reused indefinitely.
Old plastic food containers
Plastic food containers, like old yogurt cups, paper milk cartons, etc., can be repurposed into soap molds. They are a convenient option for making smaller batches of soap or individual bars that don’t need to be cut later.
Ceramic baking dishes that you no longer use make for an easy-to-find soap mold that you probably have on hand already. Just make sure to line them with parchment paper for easy removal once the soap has hardened. And once you've used it for soap, don't reuse the dish for baking! Trust me; you don't want to end up eating lye later.
5. Cleaning Supplies for Homemade Soap Making
Until the soap has cured completely, leftover lye in the raw soap batter can still cause serious burns. It’s important to wear gloves while cleaning up to protect your hands from any residual lye or chemicals on your tools.
Sponge or paper towels
The easiest way to clean your soap making tools is by using paper towels or an old sponge to wipe any soap batter directly into the trash—and make sure to wear your gloves!
Trash bags can be used to get rid of any trash left over from the soap making process, such as used gloves, soap batter, paper towels, and empty containers.
Go ahead and use plain old dish soap to clean any tools or equipment that did not come in contact with lye. Simply wash the tools with warm soapy water and/or run them through the dishwasher.
White vinegar is great for removing any lye residue or soap batter. Soak your soap making tools in a sink filled with equal parts white vinegar and water for at least 30 minutes to neutralize the lye. To get them extra clean, follow up by putting your soap making supplies in the dishwasher and running a “pots and pans” or “heavy” cycle.
Ready to start making soap?
Now that you have your supplies, try your hand at making turmeric soap or a homemade shampoo bar!2
Leave a Comment